Value-added services take center stage

From the South Florida Business Journal’s public relations, advertising and marketing column:

Public Relations & Marketing shops build business with new value-added services



When Tere Blanca launched Blanca Commercial Real Estate earlier this year, she needed more than public relations.

She needed graphic design and advertising, networking opportunities and public appearances, social media and e-mail marketing. Except her only marketing contract was with a PR firm for specific PR services.

Instead, the firm – Schwartz Media Strategies in Miami’s Coconut Grove – added value to the contract. It distributes e-mail blasts to 3,000 broker and tenant recipients each month. Executives there regularly seek out and schedule networking events for Blanca and her team. The firm is currently working on the client’s Web site, stationery package and logo design.

“We have become indispensable to clients by rolling marketing initiatives such as these under one retainer, rather than charging as additional projects,” principal Tadd Schwartz said. “None of this is groundbreaking stuff. That said, given the economy, value-added services are truly of value to clients who are savvy enough to invest in marketing.”

In tight times, effective communications means using more than one medium to reach an audience. A PR firm will produce social media, create advertisements, write a blog or collaborate with a Web firm to incorporate a blog or other search-friendly content to boost the client Web site’s exposure. For many firms, these add-ons are services needed to keep the client’s profile high – and maintain the client’s business.

Value-added services vary. Deerfield Beach-based Smith & Knibbs regularly conducts “intelligence gathering” for clients, principal Andrea Knibbs said. Executives scan article headlines and news feeds for information on client competitors, and will craft memos to clients regarding industry trends.

“For time-pressed execs, it’s a welcome service,” she said. “It demonstrates that we’re up to date and immersed in their business, as well.”

The ability to drive additional brand exposure helps some PR executives create additional return on investment for the client. These “naturally occurring organic ideas” spawn from understanding a client’s business model, and finding opportunities as they emerge, said Shamin Abas, president of Shamin Abas Public Relations in West Palm Beach.

When client Nicole Oden of ElevenSpa in Delray Beach was planning a Las Vegas expansion last year, Abas introduced her to celebrity stylist Ken Paves. After several months, a deal was struck to put Paves’ name on Oden’s Las Vegas spa, which helped alleviate some of the long-term costs and launch the location, she said. Today, Paves is also at the Delray Beach location.

Media included scores of press clippings, appearances on “Access Hollywood,” Robin Leach’s “Vegas” television show and a home video of Mario Lopez, Eva Longoria Parker and Ken Paves flying on a private jet to the spa’s grand opening.

“This comes down to real dollars and cents,” Abas said. “The partnership has generated real revenue, not to mention the editorial value – at no additional cost to the client.”

Not all efforts can come gratis, Schwartz noted. Some initiatives, like large-scale events or marketing projects, must be billed at above-retainer costs, he said.

Some agencies struggle with the cost of value-added services.

Hollywood-based PR firm O’Connell & Goldberg introduced longtime client Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza to social media, specifically Facebook and Twitter. Today, the firm manages the client’s online presence, principal Barbara Goldberg said. The firm incorporates social media into its PR mix, akin to an all-in-one offering, she said. It doesn’t “cost them a dime more,” she said, but admitted, it “keeps us very busy.”

“We are factoring in this element for new business and, depending on the intensity of the social media program needed, will consider this as we structure our fee retainers,” she said. “For now, our existing clients are grandfathered in, and unless the time factor becomes unreasonably exorbitant, we won’t charge them additional fees.” | (954) 346-4393